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An English Translation of Honoré de Balzac's Novel Wann-Chlore
du Plessis, Eric H.


The early work of a once-struggling author who subsequently became a major contributor to world literature represents a fascinating incursion into the making of a literary genius. Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) dropped out of law school in 1820 and began his literary career in Paris as a hack writer, producing reams of pulp fiction to help pay the rent for his unheated apartment. He dreamed of early recognition of his talent, but found himself relegated to the quick production of fairly insipid romantic novels, sold primarily to “cabinets de lecture,” or neighborhood public libraries. Yet Balzac persisted in his quest for literary fame. In 1825, at the age of 26, he placed all his hopes in Wann-Chlore, his most elaborate novel to date, which he felt certain would soon consecrate him as a major writer in France. Unfortunately, Wann-Chlore failed to impress Parisian critics. Utterly dejected, Balzac abandoned literature to become instead an obscure and unsuccessful publisher. Seven years later, riddled with debts, Balzac returned to writing as a desperate measure to fend off creditors. This time, success was immediate. From 1832 to his death in 1850, he wrote over eighty novels, most of which are still in print to this day, and secured for himself the place he had longed for in the pantheon of world-famous authors. It is today an illuminating experience to revisit Balzac’s juvenilia and discover the burgeoning talent it exemplifies. Among all of Balzac’s early works, Wann-Chlore represents the most accomplished effort of a young writer on the threshold of success. Recently reprinted by two major publishing houses in Paris and rediscovered by French readers, Wann-Chlore is now made available to American scholars and general readers in this first-ever English translation of the original 1825 edition.


“One cannot ignore the renaissance of contemporary interest in the relatively unknown early works of authors on whom the passage of time and the benefit of hindsight have conferred renown or even greatness. One such author is the nineteenth-century French writer Honoré de Balzac. The rediscovery of the writings of his youth is yet another subject of this trend ... Thanks to this masterful translation, Wann-Chlore emerges from the shadows of oblivion, and it does not disappoint either the student of literature fascinated by literary analysis or the reader in the general public fascinated by psychological realities of everyday life ... One must thank [the author] for undertaking this translation that reads with fluidity but remains faithful to the word and to the spirit of Balzac, and, in so doing, for introducing Balzac to the general public of our time.” – (from the Preface) Marie A. Wellington, Professor, Department of Modern Languages, University of Mary Washington

“[The author’s] translation of Wann-Chlore (1825) offers a great insight into the blossoming of Balzac’s narrative talent that would not become widely recognized until a decade later. This romantic novel of intrigue and love lost, set in the time of the fall of Napoleon’s empire, is translated here for the first time ever into English. This example of Balzac’s juvenilia reads so well in English that it can hold the interest of both scholars and general readers today ... enjoy this acorn from which Balzac’s mighty oak did grow.” – Philip D. Sweet, Professor and Chair, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Radford University

“Literary scholars will welcome [the author’s] annotated English translation of the original Wann-Chlore ... Anyone who has fallen in love will recognize the desire, ecstasy, panic, and pain that, in Balzac’s consummate portrayal, drives these lovers to a tragic end. More than melodrama, this early contribution by one of the masters of the classic French novel brings to life the eternal divide between passion and better judgment, between intention and outcome. Wann-Chlore serves the highest function of literature (which scholars sometimes forget) – to engage the reader.” – Susan Kwilecki, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Radford University

Table of Contents

Chapters 1 – 21

ISBN10:  0-7734-6062-4   ISBN13:  978-0-7734-6062-1    Pages:  408    Year:  2005   

Series: hors série Number: 0

Subject Areas:  French - Literature, French - Translations,

Imprint: Edwin Mellen Press

USA List Price: $159.95 UK List Price: £104.95  

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